Tag Archives: social media

VPNs Have Exploded in Popularity in Canada, Here’s Why

A recent VPN usage survey commissioned by NordVPN found that over one-quarter of Canadians use VPNs.

As a country, Canada landed in the top five in terms of VPN awareness too. Nearly seven Canadians in ten have heard of VPNs. Other countries with above-average awareness include the U.S., United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Poland, Singapore, Taiwan, Spain, and Brazil.

Demographics of VPN Users

If you’re wondering what the typical VPN user looks like, I’ve got you covered. They’re more likely to be male and the largest age group is between 25 and 44 years old. This group leads the way in most other countries as well.

There are two big factors intersecting here: being old enough to have a budget for the extras in life and young enough to recognize the need for better online privacy. Millennials, Gen Xers, and Xennials are right in the sweet spot.

So, getting to the main topic, why are Canadians adopting VPNs faster than countries such as France, Italy, Japan, and South Korea?

What Canadians Say About Their VPN Usage

HelloSafe surveyed Canadians across the country about their VPN usage and there are some notable differences in their results compared to NordVPN’s findings.

First things first, here are the reasons Canadians said they use a VPN:

  • To secure a Wi-Fi connection – 68%
  • To enjoy content from other countries – 36.8%
  • To hide an IP address – 31.5%
  • To avoid censorship – 26.3%

Interestingly, they found that only one in ten Canadians use a VPN at least once a week. That’s a big difference from what the study for NordVPN found. However, how HelloSafe phrased the question pushed the figure down. How many people are aware enough of their VPN usage to give an accurate response?

Although general adoption is undoubtedly higher, HelloSafe’s study could indicate that Canadians are using VPNs with a purpose in mind. While there are plenty of reasons to have your VPN enabled all the time, it’s common for people to use their VPN only when they want to achieve a specific outcome.

Reasons Canadians Should Use a VPN

Now that we’ve looked at the responses Canadians gave about their VPN usage, let’s look at the benefits in detail.

1. Safeguard Your Data

Companies and Institutions want your data to make informed decisions. Data about customers and potential customers is a valuable resource to them.

When you use online services, data about your usage and behaviours become part of a massive data set. It often happens without the user’s knowledge and their ongoing consent. Rather, the details about data collection are buried somewhere in the companies’ terms of service or privacy policy.

Additionally, malicious users and cybercriminals are always looking for ways to gain personal information to aid in their agenda.

VPNs give you a powerful way to opt out of excessive data collection which is now the norm. It protects your identity online by hiding your IP address. This makes it difficult or impossible for others to pinpoint your device and your location.

2. Get Access to Geo-Restricted Content

It’s normal for Canadians to feel left out when their favourite TV shows and movies aren’t available on streaming apps. Harry Potter, Good Fellas, and Seven are just a few examples of classic movies that aren’t available on Netflix Canada.

Canadian subscribers typically get access to less content overall than Americans on streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. It works the opposite way too as shows like The Office and Fargo are available for streaming in Canada but not in the U.S.

Websites and apps sometimes use geo-targeting to determine which content or content libraries to display to the user. It’s annoying when music in social media posts, videos on websites, news, etc. are blocked in specific countries.

VPNs replace your IP address with a different IP located in the country of your choice. This allows you to view content intended for people in any country in the world.

3. Make Public Wi-Fi Safe

Public Wi-Fi is notorious for its slow speeds and spotty stability, but it’s security that people should be most concerned about. A survey by All About Cookies found that one in four experienced a security issue from accessing the internet through unsecured networks.

It’s best to assume the Wi-Fi you use in restaurants, hotels, or at the airport isn’t secure. That means your private data, including login credentials associated with sites you visit, is being transmitted with no encryption and could be intercepted.

Any time you use a VPN, the data being transferred from the network to your device and back is protected with the highest level of encryption.

4. Protect Your Identity When Playing Online Games

Online gaming is huge, and while it’s incredibly fun to explore digital worlds, being connected with so many other players has its risks.

Gamers have to watch out for malware, account takeover, phishing attacks through messaging, data breaches, and many other threats.

Gaming platforms like Steam and PSN collect plenty of data about their customers. While you can drill down into the privacy settings and make changes, there are certain types of data collection you might not be able to opt out of.

VPNs make it impractical or impossible for malicious gamers, gaming platforms, and third parties to see the IP address of your PC or pinpoint your location.

Looking for the Best VPNs?

It’s getting more common to see VPNs packaged with other software and services such as comprehensive online security suites. However, there’s power in choosing the best VPN for you rather than settling for solutions that try to do everything.

If you’ve never used a VPN before or are looking for a new one, have a look at LetMeBy’s top 3 VPNs.

Conclusion

There’s been a big boost in awareness and usage of VPNs. At this point, most people have heard of VPNs and they have a rough idea of what they do. Canadians are pushing forward and taking control of their destiny online.

Still, we’re in the early days in terms of leveraging privacy enhancement tools like VPNs. Canadians are using VPNs to achieve their goals but if the data from HelloSafe is accurate, most haven’t jumped in with both feet yet.

Improve Your Privacy on Social Media: Top Mistakes to Avoid

Who isn’t on social media these days? 60% of the global population and 93% of all internet users use social media apps. You may have never imagined your grandma would get decorating ideas before you do on Pinterest, but it’s happened.

It’s given us unparalleled opportunities to stay connected but it’s also made maintaining our online privacy a bit complicated.

We grew up with cautionary tales of how famous people like Michael Jackson, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe were driven to the edge by the loss of their privacy. Of course, we never thought normal people would face the same challenges on a smaller scale.

Most people who are doing something enterprising or of public interest need to market themselves, whether they’re entrepreneurs, politicians, musicians, or authors. If you want to succeed, it’s part of the game. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your private life private.

Here are key privacy mistakes that can be easy to make on social media. Do your best to avoid them and sleep soundly knowing you’ve done your part.

You reveal personally identifiable information

Many mistakenly believe that because they don’t have a high profile on social media, have low income, or have bad credit, identity theft isn’t something to be concerned about. It is!

Today’s bad guys are organized, savvy, and they’ve got incredible tech at their disposal. You might not think it’s a big deal to reveal your email address, your username, or another small piece of information that’s associated with your identity. Remember that criminals can potentially build databases to piece together information over time.

Generally, avoid posting documents issued to you by governments, institutions, or businesses online. Leaking small pieces of personal data such as account numbers, or even your mailing address can come back to haunt you one day and it’s commonly done. In fact, according to a study by Experian, Americans have posted an average of 3.4 pieces of sensitive information online.

You overshare about personal events

Oversharing can mean many things. It can mean getting into an emotionally-charged state and posting about one’s personal drama. It can mean talking poorly about your ex or your former employer and getting into detail about past experiences.

It’s a tougher issue than it might seem because we bond with others by sharing things about ourselves, including our vulnerabilities.

If you post regularly on social media you have to reflect and be honest with yourself. Determine which parts of your life you’re comfortable with being public knowledge and which parts you prefer to keep private. Once the cat’s out of the bag there’s no going back.

Some people are proficient at discovering dirt about people and then spreading gossip. That’s not something you have control of, but don’t make it easy for them by creating a record that can be repurposed as ammunition.

Remember that many are generally unsympathetic to the problems of others. Tell the few you most trust your personal news to get it off your chest and leave it at that.

You reveal your exact location

Geotagging is incredible from a technological perspective. People who are interested in the happenings in an area can tap on the location and see related posts. Thus, it adds to the discoverability of your content.

If overused, geotagging gives people a way to track your activities. More and more it’s being used with precision so that people know which neighbourhood you’re in, right down to the restaurant you’re dining at.

Use geotagging judiciously. You can flex some by letting your followers know you’re visiting New York City without naming the bagel shop.

You post photos of your children publicly

The average parent posts nearly 1,500 pictures of their child online before age five according to a study by Nominet.

Parents are proud of their kids. They’re a huge part of their world, and that’s wonderful. However, sometimes we have to remind ourselves that Instagram isn’t a family photo album.

Ever heard the term “sharenting?” It’s when parents publicize personal information about their child online. People wouldn’t imagine sharing detailed private information about their friends online, but “sharenting” is incredibly common. And it’s usually done without permission by the child.

Many parents don’t think about it, but a photo or video that is funny or cute might not be seen the same in the future. At best, it will be slightly embarrassing to your child. At worst, it could negatively impact their reputation later in life.

When we post content publicly, we create a record that can be accessed by people with bad intentions and by automated technologies. It opens your child up to risks such as facial recognition tracking, online security threats, and worse.

You accept friend requests from strangers

Bots and people who are pretending to be someone else (aka catfish) are incredibly common on social media.

Platforms like Facebook give you the opportunity to approve or deny friend requests. Not much good can come of adding someone you don’t recognize. Adding them could expose you and your friends to online security threats, scams, surveillance, and misleading information.

You share information about people without their permission

Social media tends to polarize people these days. One camp believes in the power of personal branding. Their careers depend on putting themselves out there online. The other camp is known to launch into rants about how social media is destroying the fabric of society.

There are a million and one reasons someone wouldn’t want you to post a group shot with them in it on social media. It’s best to never make assumptions. Let people know if you plan to post something about them online so they can opt out.

Posting photos or information about people could have ramifications for them you didn’t consider, whether it’s at their job or in their marriage. It might not strike you as fair or reasonable but you don’t want to be blamed for sparking a conflict.

You don’t use audience selection features

Want to share a story about your career journey but don’t want your ex-employer to see it? Some social media content falls into a gray area in terms of privacy decisions. Luckily, there’s a middle ground in-between public and private posts.

Apps like Facebook and Instagram allow you to create lists of people and deliver content to that audience only. Sometimes you can exclude people or a list of people from seeing a post or story as well.

For example, Instagram allows you to make a “Close Friends” list. And on Facebook, you can add people to your list of “Acquaintances.”

You don’t remove bots and fake accounts that follow you

On Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn housecleaning your list of connections is easy because both sides have to agree to connect out of the gate.

It’s trickier to manage your followers on apps like Instagram and TikTok when you have a public account. It’s an ongoing process.

Every now and again, check your follower list and remove suspicious accounts. With practice, you’ll see patterns and it’ll be easy to spot certain types of fake accounts and scammers. In many cases, it won’t be clear what their objective is. But if there are clues that it isn’t a real person, it’s best to remove them rather than ignore them.

You don’t manage your tagged photos

Social media apps don’t have many restrictions when it comes to who can tag you in photos. In fact, on apps like Instagram spammers will tag you just so you’ll look at their post. And no, the image never has anything to do with you.

When potential employers or potential dates start digging through your profile, tagged photos are the first things they look at.

There are bound to be photos you’re tagged in that don’t send the right message. Take the time to check it every now and again, and remove your tag from the not-so-flattering shots, or the photos that reveal personal information you’re not comfortable with sharing with everyone.

You take questionable online quizzes

Facebook quizzes were huge back in the early days of the platform. People installed apps just to find out which character they are in Friends.

Quizzes seem like a fun and harmless way to share your personality traits with your friends. The problem is that the people who complete them usually don’t know who’s gathering their data and for what purpose.

If you think about it, quizzes are the perfect way for shady developers to extract data from people such as their name, birthdate, and other personal information. It doesn’t seem like much of a threat until you consider it can be pieced together and used for nefarious purposes.

You don’t use privacy settings and features

Every major platform has privacy features, and they usually go way beyond the ability to make your account private.

From hiding Likes on your post to limiting commenting to people you follow, social media apps allow you to use a lot of nuance when it comes to privacy. Experiment so that you’re confident in deploying privacy features when they’re most needed.

One of the key areas to investigate is the permissions the app has to access the data on your phone. Check its level of access to your photos, videos, location data, your mic, etc.

Location, camera, and microphone permissions can be set to “All the time,” “Allow only while using the app,” “Ask every time,” or “Don’t allow” on Android. There are no right or wrong answers here except that it makes sense to have stricter privacy settings on features you rarely use or don’t use.

Blocking access can break functionality in the app. So, test it before deciding how to approach your permission settings.

Conclusion

Let’s be clear, social media has plenty of benefits. Your online privacy is important but so is connecting with other amazing humans.

The key is to remind yourself of these privacy pitfalls before you hit the post button. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and reveal too much.

I hope you leave this article with some takeaways that will make your online journey a bit smoother. Stay safe!

6 Reasons to Skip Signing Up on a New Social Media App

In the earlier days of social media, it was simple. People created an account on Facebook first to connect with their old college buddies. Then, perhaps they got LinkedIn or Twitter. And in many cases, that was it!

Today it seems like there’s a new social media app popping up every month. And when they do keep showing up in your feed oh boy do most of them get overhyped.

If it’s a casual platform it’s where all the cool kids are at. If it can benefit your career, thought leaders want you to believe if you’re not investing in it, you’re falling behind.

The social media craze isn’t going away anytime soon. Knowing when to pass on a new app can put you ahead of the pack.

1. The Time Sink

Just as the number of social media apps has increased, the hours we spend on them have too.

From 2012 to today the time people spent on social media has been steadily trending upwards. The stats get downright alarming when we look at young age groups. In fact, a study by Real Research found that over 38% of teens use social media for over 8 hours a day.

Do you wish you watched more TV as a kid? Of course not, right? It makes you wonder how we’ll view our social media use today in the future. Eventually, social media and heavy smartphone usage will be dethroned by the next big thing. And at that point, we’re bound to gain more clarity about how much value social media brought to our lives in comparison with the time we spent on it.

Social media is a powerful tool with plenty of benefits. But no activity is so important that it should consume our lives.

2. Privacy Concerns

When people think about online privacy, they often think about how their personal data is gathered, how their data is used, and privacy policies.

It encompasses so much more than that.

On many new social media platforms, anyone can follow you and not all of them have the best intentions. There’s so much personal information that can potentially be leaked by the content you post itself.

Employers use social media to screen candidates. Posting photos of children is something that needs to be carefully considered for their safety. One slip-up can give away your location, or reveal parts of your life not everyone should be trusted to know. The list of privacy concerns is quite endless.

New social media apps haven’t been around long enough to put robust privacy options in place. If it allows you to make your account private that greatly impacts the number of people you can reach. Ultimately, it’s a blunt instrument.

Mature platforms allow you to manage privacy on a more granular level. For example, Facebook allows you to create lists and exclude groups of coworkers or acquaintances from seeing certain content. Advanced privacy features like this aren’t available on new apps and likely will never be available.

Some new social media sites track your web traffic, mine data from your profile and private messages, or share your data with third parties. Review the app’s privacy policy and trust your gut when it comes to whether you trust the company with your data or not.

3. Flash in the Pan or Here to Stay?

Getting in early is a big part of success. Influencers, celebrities, and authors that have built massive followings on apps like Instagram, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter) have proven it time and time again.

As time passes it tends to get harder to make your mark on a platform as it gets more saturated with creators. The best time to dive in is when many users are still spectators. More people that consume but don’t make content means more attention for those who do create.

So, why would you ever wait on the sidelines?

The truth is we easily forget all the social media apps that had a brief moment in the sun and then lost the interest of most of its users and failed to get new ones.

Maybe you remember when it was common to hear about Clubhouse, BeReal, and Mastodon. Going further back, you might recall when Google+ shut down, or when Myspace lost its appeal and transformed into a glitter and spam-filled abandoned amusement park.

Social media apps that remain popular for several years or decades are actually the exception, not the rule.

4. Is This Mic On?

When it comes to your potential audience, it pays to look beyond the hype and study the numbers.

Established platforms like Instagram have been adding active users for many years. Thus, even new apps that had an incredibly successful launch have nowhere near the audience as older social media sites do.

Of the people that have created an account, most are not fully invested in the new platform. Like you, they’re testing the waters and determining if it’s worth it to stick around. If the app gained a user base quickly it can lose it just as fast.

Let’s study a bit of social media history, shall we?

Meta launched Threads in July 2023 to compete with Twitter. It got up to 100 million users in less than a week which looked incredibly promising. However, by the end of July over 50% of its users had already left.

With so many established alternatives, it’s challenging for new apps to retain their user base.

5. Barebones, Isn’t It?

No social media app is launched with a full set of advanced features. The options you considered to be basic on mature platforms simply aren’t present on new apps.

It takes years for apps to hit their stride when it comes to their features and identity. Just think about how much Instagram has changed over the years. It started as a basic photo-sharing app. Over time, Instagram added Stories, improved video capabilities, and Reels to stay competitive with other apps.

Giving up features doesn’t seem like a big deal until you experience it. It usually feels like going backward. You may find that you’re not willing to accept a lesser user experience just to jump on the latest bandwagon.

6. Technical Woes

If there’s one constant with technology, it’s that not everything works as it should all the time.

New social media sites haven’t been rigorously tested by users. So, there are bound to be issues the developers missed. Its early users become the app’s beta testers and arguably its guinea pigs.

Spammers can scammers are always looking for new opportunities. And there are fewer tools at a new app’s disposal to curtail undesirable behaviour. Dealing with bad actors inevitably leads to situations in which legitimate users face frustrating hurdles.

Apps are incredibly complex and challenging to manage. Thus, solving tech issues is like a game of whack-a-mole. And the newer the app, the more moles tend to pop up.

Conclusion

Feel like you’re missing out because you’re not using one of the latest social media apps? Don’t sweat it because you’re dodging the headaches as well.

Sometimes watching and waiting is the wise move. The perfect time to invest in a new app typically isn’t when it first becomes available. It’s good to get in early, but best to skip the days when the app hasn’t made its long-term potential clear.

Is Your Data Safe with TikTok? Let’s Look at the Facts!

Talk of a ban on TikTok in the US started when former president Donald Trump started looking into the app’s data security in 2020. More recently, the Biden administration got involved by pressing the Chinese company ByteDance to sell it or possibly face a ban in the US.

Understandably all the headlines have got many TikTok users concerned if it’s worth it to keep the app installed considering the controversy about its data security policies and how it uses private data.

Most notably people are concerned about third parties TikTok is sharing its data with. There’s no way of verifying every third party TikTok sends data to and although the company has addressed people’s concerns the skepticism remains.

So, is there evidence to back up the commotion? What are the facts? Independent companies are starting to research how TikTok handles private data in the real world.

Study by URL Genius

A recent study found that TikTok collects more private data than most social media apps – and the difference is quite dramatic.

URL Genius measured the number of times popular apps made network contacts. Then they found how many of those can be traced back to first-party domains and how many are sending data to third parties.

Tests by mobile marketing company URL Genius determined that TikTok and YouTube led the pack when it comes to gathering data about its users and tracking their activity. At least they are when it comes to the numbers.

YouTube and TikTok made 14 network contacts each during their tests. That’s more than double the average of 6 network contacts. After delving deeper into which are first-party trackers and which are third-party, the results became much different.

It should be no surprise that companies like Meta and ByteDance collect data so their apps can show users the most relevant content and ads. It’s the data being sent to third parties most people want to know about yet this is the part that’s clouded in mystery.

Ten of YouTube’s trackers were first-party, which means the user data was being collected for their own purposes. The remaining four network contacts were from third-parties. So, while Google’s overall number was high at least we know where most of that data goes.

With TikTok it wasn’t clear where personal data was going and how it was being used. 13 of the 14 network contacts were from third parties.

TikTok has clarified by telling CNBC all of those network contacts can be traced back to just four third-party domains. Additionally, they said it was necessary for functions such as network security and user certification. Included in the list of third-parties are Google, Apple, Snap, and AppsFlyer, a marketing analytics company that measures the performance of ad campaigns on TikTok.

Wired Probes TikTok’s Tracking

Wired UK published a guide that explains what TikTok is tracking in plain English and how to stop its data collection.

According to their findings, TikTok can gather information even if you haven’t signed up via cookies and other trackers. And after you’ve created an account it starts tracking your activities such as videos you’ve watched, how long you watched them, internet searches, and the content in your messages.

TikTok also tracks your interactions with advertisers. It works out demographic data such as your age bracket, gender, and your interests. Advertising is one of the key reasons for TikTok’s data collection just like any other social media app. The more the app knows about its users the better it can serve them relevant ads and content they’ll enjoy.

Ever wonder how TikTok knew visiting Japan is on your bucket list, or that you’re renovating your kitchen?

TikTok’s algorithm depends on its multifaceted data collection to work. That’s how it shows you videos on your personalized For You Page that can be surprising in terms of how timely and relevant to your interests it is.

Wired went as far as to say “TikTok can tell if you find a video funny and why, if you’re interested in sports or music, whether you’re religious, into politics or concerned about specific causes. It also knows if you’ve been feeling down lately.”

How to Protect Your Privacy on TikTok

Although much of TikTok’s data collection is necessary for the functionality of the app, there are steps you can take to eliminate sharing personal info that isn’t essential.

TikTok is always evolving and its settings are no exception. It was previously possible to turn off ‘Personalized Ads’ but this feature has been removed.

Tap on the hamburger menu and select ‘Settings and privacy.’ Next, tap on ‘Privacy.’ Here you may opt to make your account private and control whether your followers can see your activity status or not.

It’s recommended that you never allow TikTok to gain access to your contacts or Facebook friends. If you’ve already granted TikTok access to this you can remove the data from their servers by accessing ‘Sync contacts and Facebook friends’ under the ‘Privacy’ menu.

For many users, it’s totally unnecessary for TikTok to track your location. Tap on ‘Location Services’ to remove TikTok’s access to your location via device settings. Additionally, you can delete your location history here.

Users that want to create a backup or plan to delete TikTok may want to download their data from the app. Go to ‘Settings and privacy’ and tap on ‘Account.‘ Next tap ‘Download your data.’

Level Up Your Privacy with a VPN

Experts suggest using a VPN with TikTok to truly regain your privacy.

What’s a VPN? It’s a virtual private server. Essentially it creates an additional layer of privacy and security between your internet connection and the apps and websites you visit. VPNs allow you to choose an IP address so your actual IP is hidden. It makes it impractical for apps like TikTok to track you in many cases.

Check out LetMeBy’s reviews of the top 3 VPNs to view the best services out there. Generally, these are the most recommended VPNs here:

The Verdict

TikTok is an incredibly engaging and entertaining app. However, it’s best to be aware of the privacy implications associated with using it.

According to independent studies, TikTok makes more network contacts than the average social media app. Its privacy settings don’t offer users much control either. If you’ve thought about using a VPN with your social media apps, TikTok provides a compelling reason to take the plunge.